By Janet Groene, F47166
Just because full-timers live a different lifestyle doesn’t mean they don’t have the same interests, responsibilities, and challenges that recreational motorhomers do. Here are a few pointers and warnings to help make life on the go more manageable.
Work as you go
If you’re a seasoned worker in search of a conventional, long-term job rather than the type of position found through KOA Work Kamper or Workamper programs, try job hunting at www.job-hunt.org or www.seniorjobbank.org. Both sites specialize in jobs for older professionals.
ATM stands for “a theft menace”
ATM theft is on the rise with the help of many new devices that criminals install on outdoor machines. Using cameras, recorders, and even phony screens, thieves can capture account information and personal identification numbers (PINs), clean out the accounts (or save the numbers of debit accounts to make online purchases later), detach their devices, and be gone before the host bank realizes the machine has been hijacked.
Masking the keypad with your hand as you enter your PIN is an old habit by now, but new precautions are needed, because some of the bandits’ theft devices can record your keystrokes without seeing them. As a precaution, don’t use any ATM that has unfamiliar equipment attached to it. Sometimes crooks even add a sign, such as “New Equipment Attached,” to mislead you.
For extra protection, you also might ask your bank to put a limit on your ATM withdrawals (the amount, the frequency, or both). And make sure to keep close track of your balance so you’ll know at once if you’ve been robbed.
It’s getting more expensive to use ATMs, especially those at banks where you don’t have an account. According to www.bankrate.com, as reported in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, the fee for using an ATM that is not part of your network now averages $2.91.
With age comes decreasing abilities, which can put the brakes on full-timing. The earlier you buy into long-term care insurance, the more protection you’ll have for the least money. Once insured, you’re able to make more choices about the location and quality of care for yourself or your loved one.
First, be aware that Medicare covers nursing care for only a limited period after you have been hospitalized. If you continue to need skilled care, you’re on your own. However, you’re protected if you have long-term care insurance, even if you’re not old enough for Medicare. This is not a government program but is a separate insurance product sold by commissioned brokers. Careful comparison shopping can save you money and grief. Long-term care insurance may not be available if you have an existing illness, so that’s another reason to buy in while you’re young and healthy.
Ask an insurance broker for a free copy of A Shopper’s Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance, published by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (816-842-3600) or order it at www.naic.com/consumer_home.htm. This comprehensive, unbiased, 62-page booklet tells you how to make an intelligent decision about the care you (and/or your partner) will receive if you can no longer take care of yourself. It can be quite complicated, so don’t let an agent sell you a policy before you understand the benefits and pitfalls. Read about what’s covered, the waiting period before the insurance begins, exclusions, limits, and much more. The helpful booklet starts by defining words used in long-term care policies, so you’ll be familiar with the lingo before you begin your search.
A group rate discount on long-term care insurance is offered to FMCA members by Long Term Care Insurance Planners. For information, call (800) 926-1282 or visit www.ltc-planners.com.
The health insurance puzzle
The one thing that keeps many people from full-timing before the age of 65 is difficulty finding affordable private health insurance before Medicare kicks in. A helpful Web site is www.ehealthinsurance.com, where you can play out a variety of scenarios involving you and your spouse. I entered a Florida zip code for a hypothetical couple, ages 63 and 64, and found a short-term, $1,000 deductible policy with a 20 percent co-pay after the deductible. If you pay six months in advance, the rate drops by about $100 a month.
There is much more to the story, but a short-term policy may be all you need to fill the gap between quitting work and reaching Medicare age. If you have many years to go before Medicare, look into a Health Savings Account (HSA) along with a high-deductible health plan. The Web site above lists several companies that offer these plans. HSAs are similar to IRAs in that they are tax-deferred savings accounts. However, money can be withdrawn from the account “” tax-free and without penalty “” to cover qualified medical expenses. Basically, you save money in the account to cover the cost of the deductible. If you have money left in the account at the end of the year, it stays in the account and can be used for medical expenses later. Once you are eligible for Medicare, you no longer can contribute to the account, but the money in it can be used for medical expenses or any other purpose without penalty.
Would you exchange 20 or 25 hours of your time each week for a free campsite in one of America’s most beautiful state parks? If so, a new book by Russ and Tina DeMaris could be the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. Camp Hosting USA: Your Guide To State Park Volunteering ($16.95, ICanRV Publishing) is written from firsthand experience, so it’s packed with tips and warnings. (For example, make sure you understand whether 20 work hours per week means a total of 20 hours in exchange for the campsite or 20 hours per person per campsite.)
The book’s best feature is that each chapter covers a different state, including Alaska and Hawaii. Parks in every state use campground hosts, but they all have different lead times, requirements, seasons, and minimum and maximum time limits for host stays. Some require uniforms, which usually are provided. Many positions require a background check. Few states, if any, pay hosts in any way except for the free site, but some parks have paid positions as well as the hosting slots.
Each chapter ends with contact information, which alone is worth the price of the book, because it leads you directly to the person who takes inquiries and applications.
Here are a few of the DeMarises’ tips:
- Know whether the state carries workmen’s compensation insurance in case you’re injured on the job.
- Some states are so popular that you must get your name in the hat well before the season begins.
- Know what camping facilities are available to you. For example, can you use the office phone? What about a computer hookup?
- Some state park offices coordinate all applications; others require a separate application to be completed for each park.
- Make sure duties are spelled out, including whether you handle money or must do emergency repairs. A clogged toilet? Rowdy campers? Know what backup you have in sticky situations.
- Location is everything, but that doesn’t mean hosts want to work only the most scenic parks or those with the most activities. Sometimes hosts work the park(s) that are closest to their family or friends, which means good slots might be available at the best parks.
- If you’re new to working on the go, your good record as an unpaid campground host now could be just the reference you need to get a paid position in the future.
To order the book, call (360) 357-5728 or visit www.icanrv.com.
Full-timers who need more work options also might find Jaimie Hall’s book Support Your RV Lifestyle! An Insider’s Guide to Working on the Road ($19.95, Pine Country Publishing) helpful. It covers the full range of income opportunities, including hosting at federal parks. It is available from online booksellers, including www.rvhometown.com or by calling (928) 607-3181.